Alitocracy: The Grim Economics of Forced Birth
The price tag for cruelty is onerous, and Republicans are cheap. Will the GOP pay?
American democracy has been mortally wounded. The religious right is trying to bulldoze the separation of church and state. We are on the verge of sliding into a form of fascism that is peculiar to the United States, a government based on the arbitrary and capricious belief system of six radical religious zealots on the Supreme Court who, collectively, represent a small minority of Americans. Call it Alitocracy: rule by believers in fables and fairy tales.
Nowhere is the Alitocratic elevation of fairy tale more evident than in Dobbs, the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade—and sent decades of stare decisis to the paper shredder—all because grown-ass men believe deeply in a bedtime story. Life begins at conception: This is the myth that the forced-birth crowd believes. Once modern medical equipment can detect a heartbeat (we’ll ignore the fact that Jesus wasn’t an ultrasound technician), that fetus is a precious soul who deserves to live, just like you or me. Women who choose to terminate their pregnancies, then, are baby-killers. They may as well rip a fully-formed infant from the womb and smash its still-malleable skull in with a ball-peen hammer.
This is all fantasy, of course. It has zero basis in reality. In the science-based realm of medicine, the soul is not a thing. The famous tale of the soul weighing 21 grams was debunked. Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas may just as well write about the sanctity of the Tooth Fairy. But it’s effective propaganda, especially when disseminated by religious leaders, for the simple reason that babies are cute.
Never mind that a significant percentage of abortions are undergone to save the life of the mother. Maybe the pregnancy is ectopic. Maybe the mother is ten years old. Maybe she is forty-seven. Roe was overturned less than a month ago, and already there are horror stories. The GOP called bullshit on the pregnant 10-year-old who had to leave Ohio to get an abortion—that is, to access medical care to save her life—because it seemed impossible that such a horrible thing could happen. But as we saw, it indeed happened. It happens all the time. These stories are going to come out now, and they are only going to get worse.
With pregnancy, there are many more than fifty shades of gray, but the Alitocratic forced birthers see everything in black and white. Abortion, to these reality-deniers, is nothing less than snuff. It’s like the stork shows up, and you either accept the delivery, or you blow away the stork and the bundle of joy with your trusty AR-15. There are no exceptions for rape or incest or health of the mother. There are no exceptions for anything. It’s real Old Testament shit.
The thing is, there is no non-theocratic justification for a state policy of forced birth. At the heart of every “pro-life” argument is a religious belief—a Christian religious belief, usually, promoted by a bunch of reactionary so-called holy men whose superiors don’t allow them to fuck. (Yes, Nancy Pelosi knows more about childbirth than the Pope, duh.) And if you believe all of that, swell. By all means, carry that ectopic pregnancy to term because Jesus. But you don’t get to foist that risible religious belief on others.
There is no good medical reason to criminalize abortion; we may just as well make chemotherapy illegal, or blood transfusion, or organ donation. There is no good social reason; in what universe is it prudent to force folks who don’t want to be parents to raise children? And there sure as shit is no good economic reason. On the contrary, if allowed to stand, the cruel forced-birth laws enacted by the Alitocratic states are going to quickly become very, very expensive.
At the risk of minimizing what is a horrible, cruel policy that will have deleterious effects on tens of thousands of women, I’d like to focus on the economic ramifications of Dobbs. Here’s the deal: red states are going to have to fork over a fuck-ton of cash, directly and indirectly, to force women to give birth. And why? Because their Republican leaders are all Alitocratic dipshits who fell for a silly fetuses-have-souls propaganda campaign that is younger than Roe. Or they really hate women. Or both.
One of the key characters in Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad is a slavecatcher named Ridgeway. His job is to chase after runaway slaves—even to states where slavery is illegal—and return them to their rightful owners.
“The other patrollers were boys and men of bad character,” Whitehead writes; “the work attracted a type. In another country they would have been criminals, but this was America.”
Whatever Ridgeway believed about the nature and ethics of the slave trade was irrelevant. In the mid-19th century, there was an economic element at play. Runaway slaves cost their owners money in lost labor. Whatever was spent to engage the services of Ridgeway, who was paid in full only when the job was compete, was worth it to the bottom line. The math held up. That’s why the Fugitive Slave Act—the so-called “Bloodhound Bill”—begat a cottage industry.
And this is where the odious ruling in Dobbs differs from the odious ruling in Dred Scott. In the latter case, where the Taney Court ruled that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution did not apply to Black Americans, there were economic reasons to maintain the disgraceful status quo. There were powerful financial incentives for fugitive slaves to be retrieved—horrible, heinous, and unethical, obviously, but nevertheless legitimate in the abominable antebellum South.
There is no such economic underpinning to Dobbs. On the contrary, enforcement of the draconian forced-birth laws popping up across the country, if left unchecked, will be a massive and unnecessary financial drain. And Republicans, as a general rule, don’t like to pony up for anything.
Who’s going to pay for a modern-day Ridgeway to hunt down a pregnant tween rape victim traveling from, say, New Orleans to New Jersey to access medical care? The states that have enacted these misogynist laws are rightfully called “red,” because their budgets tend to be in the red. They take more from the federal government than they put in. Are Mississippi and Alabama, who already spend so little, really going to allocate precious financial resources for this?
Every law enforcement officer policing forced birth is one less LEO investigating actual crime. Cops who write speeding tickets, annoying as they can be, at least generate revenue for their communities. Forced birth enforcement generates nothing of monetary value. It just adds more to the “debits” column.
Then there’s the medical stuff. Do states really want all of their doctors to be prosecuted, or lose their licenses, because Alitocratic Republicans don’t understand biology? Where is the economic value in that? Are state prosecutors going to eschew more worthy cases to throw the book at an OB/GYN who gave a pregnant teenager medical treatment? And what will those states do when doctors, so critical to local economies and local healthcare networks, pack up and leave town? Will Ginni Thomas set up a chain of leeching centers?
As far as the bottom line is concerned, abortion, as a healthcare option, is inexpensive. (Not to the teenager who might raise her eyebrows at what Planned Parenthood charges, of course—it costs way more than you think—but relatively speaking.) Hospital bills for pregnant women forced to give birth despite major medical red flags, on the other hand, will be onerous. Families will start going bankrupt. Providers will be sued for malpractice—also a big expense, in terms of both money and the potential brain-drain of doctors leaving for blue states. Women will die in childbirth, depriving their existing kids of a mother.
Men who provided the sperm for the forced-birth babies? They are on the hook for child support for the next 18 years—assuming there is enough law enforcement left to make them pay it. Although if we’ve learned nothing from the Roberts Court, it’s that they want to make it as easy for irresponsible men as possible.
Unwanted babies will be sent to the already-overtaxed foster care system. “We will adopt your baby” is a fun slogan at some Christian rally, but less of a certainty when the sticker shock kicks in. Adoption is cripplingly expensive. And the red states don’t want gay couples to adopt—even though that is the logical, practical, and cost-effective solution to the unwanted baby glut—because [checks notes] Jehovah smote Sodom and Gomorrah (but not, tellingly, Lot, even after he got drunk and raped his daughters).
Let’s say the teenage couple decides to keep the baby the fifteen-year-old girl was forced to have, rather than send it to an orphanage. Can we really expect them to be model parents? My teenage son claims not to be able to operate a vacuum cleaner; one of his coevals is going to be a good dad? Maybe—but chances are, Child Protective Services will need a huge injection of cash into its annual budget. Where is this cash coming from? That paragon of family planning, Elon Musk?
Finally, there is the environmental cost. Climatologists are indistinguishable from dystopian writers of science fiction these days. Like, we’re running out of potable water. Northern Europe might have severely curtailed growing seasons in the next decade or three. The Western states are soon going to be fighting, really fighting, over water rights to the Colorado River. The situation is dire. Why on God’s green earth would a responsible government insist on producing unwanted humans?
The modern-day Republican Party wants two things: tax cuts for the rich, and the rest of us to fuck off and die. The fallout from Dobbs is ultimately going to be so expensive that these two platform planks will no longer be able to coexist. And the GOP are notoriously cheap fucks.
Is forced birth worth the hefty price tag? The Alitocrats will have to decide.
Photo credit: j4p4n, Open Clip Art.